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Help Me Beome a Glutton for Punishment (or: How to buy a potential problem car?)

My dad had a Gremlin. A genuine, certifiable POS. Argh!

I used to drive a Greenbriar at work. It was the worst vehicle I ever drove: underpowered an dangled dreadfully. I thought I was in a Ferrari when I drove home in my Corvair Monza, the Greenbriar was so bad.

I have a couple of funky suggestions for you. First, a 1960s Citroen DS and second, a 1970s Citroen SM. The attached photos show the DS on the left and SM on the right. Are they strange enough for you? Parts won’t be easy to get in the USA, but Europe is closer than ever with the internet. There might be parts available in South and Central America, too. If you must have something where parts will be a bit more available, try a Merkur XR4ti. I had one as a rental in the 1980s and was quite impressed with it.

How about an AMC Eagle,they arent actually ugly like the gremlin, they are kinda of cool looking because they are 4 wheel drive,I dont see many of them where I live.

I actually like those AMC Eagles a lot also. A guy who lives in a small town about 10 miles south of me has 4 of them sitting out behind his house. Not for sale; just taking up space and rotting. :frowning:

Regarding the Gremlins, those things have a cult following now and can bring some serious money.
A Gremlin X on eBay went for well over 13 grand.

Here’s a Gremlin for you…

jtsanders Citroen DS and SM are wonderful automobiles but can be a money pit in the U.S. with parts very expensive or unobtainable. The Merkur XR4ti is a good suggestion.
tardex The AMC Eagle is also a good suggestion.

I give you, the mirth mobile! AMC from Wayne’s world.


The flames should be bigger. And more real.
They should have named it the “la plaga”.

Those Citroens you guys mentioned are certainly good looking

But they command a pretty steep price

Going that route would not be cheap

IMHO the young lady would probably spend years trying to get the parts to fix up an old Citroen. The fun of restoring a car is not in waiting months for parts. I think she’d be better to look for something with readily available and affordable parts.

yeah, there were a couple nice citroens, sitting by a shop, that I admired back in the 80 s.

they were sitting in the 90 s… sitting in 2000…

gone now, but I doubt that they were driven away

The Merkur XR4Ti at my house. This one has a 308 Ford V-8 with dual 4-barrels and a Lincoln AOD transmission. The shaker scoop is from a 70s era Pontiac Trans Am.

The problem with most truly ugly cars that few people want them. That means that parts won’t be as readily available unless they share a bunch with a more popular car. It’s not necessarily cheaper to restore a Pacer than a Mustang. The Mustang will cost more up front (depending on year, body style, engine, condition), but there is an active marketplace in parts, both original and repro. With an unpopular car you used to go to Big Bob’s Acres of Dead Cars and go find what you needed, but most of those have been replaced by salvage operation that pick the carcass clean and shred the rest. They know they can sell just about anything on a '65 Mustang, and hardly anything on a Pacer. Makes those parts a lot harder to find.

So, my advice is to, of course, buy something you like, staying away from the cars people don’t remember fondly (no Pinto.)
The sixties is the sweet spot. You avoid the poorly engineered early emissions gear of the seventies and the unreliable computerization, too. Cars of the sixties are mostly straightforward and there is a lot of room under the hood to reach things.

There is a growing number of people restoring station wagons of that era. I know that’s what I’d want as I spent so much time in the back seats of both a 1965 and a 1971 Ford Country Sedan. That’s the more basic model without the fake woody look. Restorers say the fiberglass framing that surrounded the flat woodgrain areas is very hard to find intact and last I know there weren’t retro parts. As the parts got damaged many owners pulled them off their ancient wagons and threw them away. The ‘65 is a cooler car than the’ 71, but my family had the latter car for longer and I have more fond associations.

Here’s an example of ugly killing you. My mom drove a Renault Alliance back in the eighties. It’s a very comfortable car and I went on some fun trips in it. But it’ such a horribly made car that it has very few fans. Trying to restore one would be sheer frustration as most of the parts weren’t shared with any other US models, so now you’re stuck importing some bits at high cost. By the time you were done you’d have tens of thousands into a car worth not much over salvage. Of course, old station wagons were in that same category a few years ago, and now they’re worth more than the mainstream sedans they’re based on. I could combine my interest in the AMC/Renault products with my liking for station wagons by getting a Renault/Eagle Medallion Wagon. I remember quite liking it’s comfort and packaging at the time. I wonder if I could sleep in the back? No, I’m not serious, but if there are cars in need of a warm hug, it’s those unfortunate Renaults. I could probably drive a Medallion Wagon for years and not see another. Even when it was new they were rare.

It cost me $150 for the fuel tank sending unit for my 1950 cad. You can get a 1957 bel air fuel tank sending unit for about $30 I think it was. Now a 57 bel air would cost about twice as much up front, in rough condition.

Two cars that I think might be interesting restorations: 1) a 1968 through 1970 AMC Javelin and 2) a first generation 1968-1969 Mercury Cougar. I once owned a 1968 Javelin and it was a nice car. My Javelin had the 232 cubic inch 6. It would have been worth more with the 304 or 360 cubic in V-8. The original Mercury Cougar was based on the Mustang but was never as popular. Hence, the Cougar may be had at a lower price. I would avoid the 390 cubic inch engine in the Cougar as there isn’t enough space to work on the engine.

I think you chose very well, Fender. Your Caddy seems to be in decent condition for its age and not missing much. When you’re done you’ll have a beautiful, interesting, classy car. It won’t be as immediately recognizable as a ‘57 Bel Air, but it will be just as eye-catching, maybe more so, as people will know it’ s a Cadillac, but not much more than that. They’ll have to ask you about it. An early-fifties car is about as early as I’d want to go if I planned on driving it more than to and from shows (if that). It will keep up with traffic quite nicely, though you may want to signal the engine room well before your stops. Brakes improved dramatically in recent decades. I’m having great fun reading your progress reports and the memories your car has brought back for so many. Your car was made a decade before my birth, but I can still remember late-forties and early-fifties cars on the street. In our neighborhood they were usually second cars. We never had anything older than an early-sixties Buick Special, and my mother found its brakes scary on a wet day.

I appreciate the kind words Mark. I’m going to write an article on the car - perhaps an ongoing thing for my buddies website He reviews modern cars from Porsches to Kias. I’ll keep people posted here for anyone who’s interested when that comes out. Hopefully we’ll get some good pictures and videos of it as well.

Back when I thought I wanted to restore a Mustang, I looked at a 66 that was pretty cheap. The quarter panels had been replaced but instead of welding he used stove bolts by the roof. I figured anyone that would use stove bolts on a quarter panel probably would have done similar throughout the car so passed on it. Now that would be the last car I’d want to restore.

I have a different, ugly vehicle for you. For some reason I can;t do attachments in Car Talk so just google Jeep FC170

@theflyingfraction - still there?